Genital Herpes Symptoms

By Sherry Baker @SherryNewsViews
June 27, 2023
Genital Herpes Symptoms

Millions of Americans have genital herpes, and most don’t know it. Learn to recognize genital herpes symptoms to prevent complications and infecting others.

Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD). Anyone who is sexually active, no matter their age, can become infected with these viral infections through unprotected sex with someone who has an STD.

About one in six people in the U.S. between the ages of 14 and 49 have genital herpes. Research shows around 90 percent of them probably don’t know they have the infection, the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) points out.




Most people with the virus have no symptoms, or they have mild symptoms that they ignore. What’s more, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains, some genital herpes symptoms are often mistaken for another skin condition or infection — such as an ingrown hair or a pimple.

Even if a person has no obvious genital herpes symptoms, he or she can still transmit the infection to sex partners, according to the CDC.

To protect your health and that of your partner, it’s important to understand genital herpes symptoms, including when to get tested and treated.

Two viruses cause genital herpes symptoms

Genital herpes is caused by two strains of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Once you are infected with either type of herpes simplex, the virus remains in your body, hiding until it re-emerges to cause an outbreak of symptoms.

Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) causes most cases of genital herpes. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is very common. About 50 percent of Americans have it.

HSV-1 causes cold sores (also called fever blisters) around your mouth from time to time. While HSV-1 is not as likely to cause genital herpes as HSV-2, both strains can cause the virus via oral sex. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can also occur in either the genital or oral areas of your body.

You can contract genital herpes through vaginal, anal, or oral sex from saliva (if your sex partner has an oral herpes infection) or genital secretions (if your partner has a genital herpes infection).

It’s crucial to know that your sex partner may not have a visible sore and may not know if he or she is infected.

Don’t ignore genital herpes symptoms

Genital herpes symptoms may appear as one or several blisters on or near your genitals or rectum. After the blisters break, they often turn into painful sores. Over time, in about a week, the sores heal.

It’s important to treat the first episode of initial genital herpes symptoms because they can be severe, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In addition to ulcer-like sores, fever and body aches can occur, and lymph nodes may be painful and swollen, according to NIH herpes expert Jeffrey I. Cohen, MD.

If you think you may have contracted genital herpes, talk to your doctor, who take a sample of your sore for lab tests. A blood test for HSV-1 and HSV-2 can also check for the STD, even when you have no symptoms.

If you are infected with herpes simplex, you may have no symptoms for long periods of time, but the virus can re-emerge at any time. Some people have outbreaks multiple times a year, and there may be warning signs — tingling or burning in the genital area — just prior to a genital herpes outbreak.

Genital herpes health complications

Although genital herpes outbreaks can cause uncomfortable and painful symptoms, they are generally not dangerous if you are a healthy adult. If you do have genital herpes, however, you are at increased risk for becoming infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. If you already have HIV, you are more likely to infect your sexual partner.

Genital herpes in women who are pregnant or become pregnant is very serious. Genital herpes infection may lead to miscarriage. You can also pass the virus to your unborn child before or during birth, causing a potentially deadly infection in your baby (neonatal herpes).

If you are pregnant and have symptoms of genital herpes, or you have been diagnosed with the infection, it’s crucial to tell your doctor and to follow through with all prenatal care.

Learn how to protect yourself from genital herpes

There’s no cure for genital herpes. Prescription medications, however, can not only speed healing of genital herpes sores and symptoms but also lower your risk of future outbreaks.

If you do not have the STD, these strategies can lower your risk of contracting the disease, according to the CDC:

  • Commit to a long-term monogamous relationship with a partner who, like you, has been tested and has negative STD test results.
  • Use latex condoms every time you have sex. But be aware condoms may not fully protect you from genital herpes; not all herpes sores occur in areas a condom covers.
  • If you are in a relationship with a person known to have genital herpes, your risk of getting genital herpes will be lower if your partner takes anti-herpes medication daily. Avoid vaginal, oral, or anal sex when your partner has an outbreak, and remember you can contract the virus even if your infected partner has no obvious symptoms.


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June 27, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN